Our world is dividing – perhaps more than ever before. Into those who think the pandemic is behind them and those who know it is all just beginning. Into those who look forward to the future, and to those who fear it. Into medical oases, and medical deserts. – Audette Exel AO, Founder & Chair, Adara Group
Over the last few months, we have seen countries across the world – particularly in low-resource settings – hit by second and third waves of COVID-19, even as countries like Australia begin to recover and emerge from the pandemic. Sadly, Nepal and Uganda – where Adara has worked for more than 23 years – are not exceptions. Adara’s team in Nepal have been working extremely hard to manage a devastating second wave, while ensuring that essential services in education, health, nutrition and child protection continue. Now, as the peak of infections has passed in Nepal, COVID-19 cases in Uganda have begun to surge and the country was plunged into a nation-wide lockdown.
Uganda’s COVID-19 Crisis
Uganda is currently in the grips of a second wave of COVID-19. Infections are climbing rapidly – averaging more than 1,000 daily cases – though numbers are likely much higher. This represents a 131% rise in COVID-19 cases in the last week. Staff testing within Adara’s partner facilities are seeing a more than 50% COVID positivity rate.
Cases are rising among health workers, isolation centres and intensive care units are filling up, and demand for oxygen is increasing exponentially causing shortages. Since June 1, the oxygen needed to treat COVID-19 patients in Uganda has increased four-fold.
With this medical crisis impacting remote and vulnerable communities in Uganda, Adara’s work in maternal, newborn and child health is more important than ever. In 2020, during the first wave of infections in Uganda, women and children were disproportionately impacted by lockdowns with disruptions to healthcare access before, during, and immediately after childbirth. With lockdowns making finding transportation to hospital extremely difficult, mothers were arriving for delivery much later, leading to complications and lower chances of infant survival. As a result, we saw a 14% reduction in births at Kiwoko Hospital.
Our focus during this third wave is on standing with our teams and our partners like Kiwoko Hospital and Nakaseke Hospital to ensure they can continue to deliver lifesaving health services in the safest way possible. We are helping them to manage and treat patients with COVID and with other medical needs.
Additionally, over the coming weeks and months, Adara will:
• Source additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep health workers safe at Kiwoko Hospital and Nakaseke Hospital. This is more critical than ever now that the government has mandated double masking for healthcare workers.
• Secure and purchase oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters to save lives.
• Work with Kiwoko Hospital to develop staffing contingency plans and fund additional staff in case of significant outbreaks among staff.
• Support Kiwoko and Nakaseke with protocols, guidelines and research around best practices in COVID prevention and management.
• Provide emergency nutrition support to communities in need.
Nepal’s COVID-19 Crisis
Whilst rates of daily new cases have been steadily declining in Nepal, this crisis is far from over. As of mid-June 2021, the COVID positivity rate in Nepal is 27.5%. In the last seven days, Nepal has recorded another 24,000+ cases. Most experts say these numbers are likely an underestimation as data is not able to be gathered and testing is limited.
Adara’s amazing Nepal team are responding directly to this medical crisis by continuing to supply health posts and hospitals with PPE and essential medicines, and to broadcast awareness messages throughout the community. Since we started working at the India-Nepal border in May, Adara and our partner organisations have provided support to more than 35,000 Nepalis returning home. For those who test positive to COVID, we are supporting them with health kits and dignified menstruation kits.
The team are also continuing to provide essential service delivery across health, education, child protection and nutrition. Ensuring that students and young people remain engaged with their education through the distance learning programme is a key focus of our work. Teachers in Ghyangfedi are now carrying out socially distanced home visits, giving students the opportunity to ask questions about their studies while learning from home.
We have also recently partnered with the Nepal Medical Association, King’s College, the Karuna Foundation Nepal and the Nursing Association of Nepal to provide safe accommodation for health workers on the frontlines of this crisis. Many medical staff are working long hours to save lives but are unable to go home due to the risk of passing on COVID to their families or because many landlords are not allowing them to return home. By providing a quarantine center for nurses in Kathmandu, these frontline heroes are being provided with a safe place to eat and sleep, without fear of potentially spreading the virus to their loved ones. There are currently 10 nurses staying at the center, however we expect this number to grow in the coming weeks.
We continue to see time and time again that COVID-19 will not be over for any of us, until it is over for all of us.
Thank you to our community of supporters for continuing to stand with us during this time. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many wonderful people who have donated or the spread the word about Adara’s work – we could not do this work without your support.